Arborists spruce up Superior cemetery

Arborists rose to the treetops of Greenwood Cemetery on Wednesday to show their appreciation for veterans. It's the second year workers from Levy Tree Care and Lake States Tree Service have used their tree-care expertise to spruce up the veterans...

John Peck, a trainer with Lake States Tree Service, prepares to toss a newly-cut branch to the ground Wednesday at Greenwood Cemetery. Four members of the Grand Rapids, Minn.-based business donated half their day to remove a storm-damaged spruce tree near the cemetery’s veterans memorial park as part of the national Saluting Branches event. Jed Carlson/

Arborists rose to the treetops of Greenwood Cemetery on Wednesday to show their appreciation for veterans. It's the second year workers from Levy Tree Care and Lake States Tree Service have used their tree-care expertise to spruce up the veterans memorial park area of the cemetery as part of the national "Saluting Branches" day of service.

"It can happen at a local level, no matter what the fussing and craziness is at a national level," said Steve Leino, a member of the Greenwood Cemetery Board of Trustees. "It's very heartwarming to know there are people in organizations willing to put the effort in to make it happen."

As Louise Levy pruned branches from a silver Maple, John Peck and Bruce Westerberg of Lake States pulled down a storm-damaged spruce, piece by piece.

"If there weren't headstones around, it would be a 10-minute job," said Levy. "But they have to be quite careful because of the headstones. So what would be a 10-minute job might be a couple of hours. They have to be very cautious."

The work took on the feel of a well-choreographed production. Peck climbed slowly up the tree, trimming branches as he went. Some were tossed down at the base of the tree; others were clipped to a rope and eased to the ground. Bruce Westerberg, a foreman who's worked with Lake States for 32 years, cleared the branches from among the headstones.


They uncovered a mystery in the process. At the base of the spruce rested the headstone of Johann P. Burg, who died in 1820. Nearby headstones dated back to the late 1800s. The nonsecular Greenwood Cemetery, however, wasn't established until 1900.

After a few quick calls, Leino learned the graves had been relocated to Greenwood. Perhaps they were moved to keep the family together, he said.

The national Saluting Branches event grew from a Minnesota-based initiative focused on tree care at Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Minneapolis. Levy took part in the event a few years ago.

"A lot of people such as myself said, 'Wait a second. We can do something like that in our hometowns because cemeteries have veterans sections,'" she said.

When the Saluting Branches national effort began in 2015, she jumped on the chance to do just that. Levy chose to focus on Greenwood, where she had cared for trees in the past.

"Because we had this relationship built, I asked them if they would be interested and willing to host Saluting Branches last year, and they were," Levy said. Peck brought his Lake States crew, as well.

The inaugural event, however, was rained out after an 1½ hours work. Wednesday, the weather was sunny and cool. Sustained with coffee and donuts donated by Kwik Trip, the arborists donated half their day to clearing up the trees near veterans memorial park. Leino estimated they provided hundreds of dollars' worth of work.

Members of the Richard I. Bong American Legion Post 435 opened the day with a brief ceremony to thank the arborists for their work.


"I guess it's a nationwide deal, and it's a good deal," said post commander Denny Bee.

For some of the workers, the Saluting Branches message touched close to home.

"I like it because my brother was killed in Vietnam," Westerberg said.

Keeping the Greenwood Cemetery grounds in top shape is a never-ending process of trimming trees, raising them up to facilitate mowing and clearing storm damage, Leino said. The work is usually handled by sexton Wayne Middleton.

"Our primary objective is to maintain and improve the grounds of this facility, that's what we strive for," Leino said. "We do the best we can, but this is just icing on the cake. Wayne, as talented as he is and as willing as he is, can't take that tree down. These guys are the pros and they can."

Middleton planned to pull out the stump and right the headstone after the tree was down.

Arborists volunteered at 36 cemeteries in 27 states Wednesday through Saluting Branches. Superior was the northernmost work site in the area. The next closest were at the Northern Wisconsin Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Spooner and Fort Snelling.

For more information about the program, visit .

Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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